Archive for the ‘Will’s Blog’ Category

Shocking Trophy Hunting Channel Launched

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Just a week or so after the shocking news story about Xanda, (a male lion with dependent cubs)and one of Cecil the lion’s adult sons, being shot as a trophy in Zimbabwe, it seems the whole issue of trophy hunting is firmly back on the international radar with news of the launch of a new Sport Hunting Channel.

Here’s my reaction:

“It won’t only be Arsenal supporters (like me) who will be outraged by My Outdoor TV (MOTV), launched recently in the UK by billionaire Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke.

Anyone who has a beating heart will be sickened by images of grown men and women celebrating the killing of wild lions and other iconic species for ‘fun’.

Let’s be clear:

Trophy hunting isn’t poaching – the illegal killing of animals, such as elephants for their ivory.

Trophy hunting isn’t subsistence hunting by people surviving from day to day on the animals they hunt to food.

Trophy hunting isn’t even the hunting of animals to control their populations, such as deer in many European countries, where natural predators have long been eradicated.

Whatever trophy hunters may say – that it’s about being in the great outdoors; that these are problem animals that need controlling; that it’s all about the hunt, not the actual killing – trophy hunters do exactly what it says on the tin. They hunt for trophies so they can put the head of their victim on the wall and brag about their bravery to their buddies – as if killing a wild animal with a high-powered rifle or bow from a hundred feet away or more was some kind of badge of courage!

‘All dangerous game safaris are exciting and challenging hunts and yes, a thrill of a lifetime!’ That’s what it is really all about for trophy hunters.

Football is called ‘the beautiful game’ but, Mr Kroenke, one of its wealthiest supporters, may be contributing to the end of our beautiful ‘game’ – the wild animals that still cling to existence across an increasingly human-dominated world.

And now, Mr Kroenke’s trophy hunting channel will  permit some people to share the ‘thrill of a lifetime’ by watching others kill for ‘fun’.  It is the equivalent of a legal ‘snuff movie’. I say enough is enough. We can and must protect wildlife and wild places without killing and it’s time for the majority to speak out. Born Free has been, and always will be, against trophy hunting, and for Compassionate Conservation. Join us.”

Will Travers OBE

President The Born Free Foundation

Please note: this blog has been superseded by the latest news on Friday, 4th August here.

Tiger Questions

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

How many tigers are left in the wild? And what about in 5 years’ time? Or when my 6 year-old child has grandchildren? Fundamentally, these questions are unanswerable. Tigers are solitary creatures, disliking disturbance of any kind and moving silently through their forests, often coming close to people without our knowledge. We can gather and assess information about their presence in a given area, and estimate numbers, but these figures will never be a comprehensive assessment of all tiger populations, and may not be comparable from one country to another or even from one year to another.

Estimating tiger numbers is a worthy pursuit, but it can give us a false impression, resulting in a sense of complacency if numbers appear to be increasing. Just as importantly, it can distract us from the more important questions we should be asking.

A couple of years ago, I attended a meeting in India which brought together high-level government officials from tiger range countries, as well as organisations and individuals focussed on saving tigers. A figure which appeared to indicate an increase in the global tiger population had been bandied about to much fanfare in a press release issued just a day before the meeting began. On the morning of the first day, the delegates got busy working their way through the agenda, and at one point I found myself in a room with some eminent scientists and tiger conservationists discussing tiger reintroductions. But there was an elephant in the room and, at one point between presentations, one of those in the audience decided to address it, making the following powerful observation: that it mattered less how many tigers we counted at any given point, and much more how many of them we could actually protect from unchecked development, habitat degradation, conflict with people and of course poaching gangs which feed the demand for parts and products many miles away from where tigers live.

There is nothing inconclusive or vague about the reality of these threats, nor of their impact on tiger populations across Asia. So, if we want a future with tigers, we have to ask ourselves some critically important questions which have a direct bearing on protecting what tigers we have, and securing a future for ourselves which includes these iconic animals.

First of all, how many tigers do we want, and linked to that, how far down the road to achieving that objective are we as a global community?

How can we drastically reduce the threats tigers face, and what are the key practical and proven solutions which can be rolled out in a coordinated way in and around tiger habitat?

What are the main roadblocks which are preventing tiger populations from growing, and how should we overcome or work around them?

Are there enough wild places which are undisturbed, adequately protected and contain all a tiger needs to not only survive but thrive? Has our approach to date worked? Are there other or better ways?

How far are we prepared to go to ensure a world with more tigers? What value are we prepared to place on them? Is everyone, including donors, local communities, and politicians, prepared for the implications of having more tigers?

Is the global community going to rally together and demand an end to captive tiger breeding in East and Southeast Asia (tiger “farming”), which stimulates demand for tiger skin, claws, teeth and tiger bone wine from both captive-bred and wild tigers?

These and more are the questions we need to pose and answer, now and every day in the future – not just when Global Tiger Day rolls around.

Gabriel Fava, Born Free’s Associate Director, Asia and Oceana

Virginia McKenna remembers her friend Roger Moore

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Roger Moore and Virginia in "I Capture the Castle"

“I have been thinking about the date, May 23rd 2017. The news of the Manchester bomb attack and the death of a loved and famous actor revealed to us on the same day.

As a parent, I can only imagine the horror being endured by those who have lost loved ones or whose beautiful children have been brutally injured by the disgusting and cowardly attack at the Ariana Grande concert. We all weep as one and we all share a determination to resist those who seek to force us to be other than the caring, compassionate, inclusive society we cherish.

The death of Roger Moore has been a shock and is another great sadness. I knew he was ill, but – nevertheless. I understand well what his family are going through and, of course, I feel for them very much.

My personal memories are perhaps different from what we are reading and seeing on television. They go back to 1954. Bill and I together with Roger were in a theatre production of “I Capture the Castle” in London (pictured). Roger played the part of Stephen Colly and we all thought he was gorgeous and charming. So did Hollywood, as he was whisked off there, before the play ended, and signed a contract with MGM.

But, in spite of fame and fortune, Roger had a deep current of compassion flowing through his veins. Compassion for humans, expressed through his long-term work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (since 1991) – he was awarded the UNICEF Audrey Hepburn Award in 2004. And compassion for animals, where he held some very strong and critical views on animal exploitation and cruelty. Trophy hunting, the use of wild animals in circuses, the relentlessly cruelty involved in the production of foie gras (his work significantly contributed to Selfridges ending foie gras sales in November 2009).

For many years we exchanged emails on these issues. He was deeply shocked that anyone could hurt or hunt a wild creature for “fun”, sport, or a trophy.

When it came to wild animals in circuses, I know he had reserved a very special bottle of champagne to take to Downing Street to present to Teresa May if – no, WHEN – she (or whoever the Prime Minister of the day was at the time) finally ended this archaic and cruel relic of the past. We agreed to knock on her door together.

As a tribute to his memory, I once more ask Mrs May to do just that. I am aware that many issues are on her desk at the moment, but the job is done, the legislation is written, the support is overwhelmingly there. It shouldn’t take much precious Parliamentary time Prime Minister.

Surely the animals deserve that and dear much-missed Roger can rest in peace.”

Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder and Trustee, Born Free Foundation

General Election – Animals don’t have a vote but they need a strong voice

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Dear Friends of Wildlife

It hardly seems five minutes since the last time, but once again we find ourselves in the midst of UK General Election fever.

However, things are substantially different this time round. The referendum result almost a year ago changed everything. Brexit is dominating the headlines, threatening to drown out discussion of the NHS, social care, education, jobs, security and the domestic economy.

Wildlife protection hardly seems to be getting a look-in. But the election could profoundly impact the UK’s future policies on nature conservation, environmental management and animal welfare, in no small part because many of our current rules relating to nature and wildlife come from Brussels.

Prospective parliamentary candidates mustn’t be allowed to forget how important wildlife protection is to the vast majority of their prospective constituents. Our next government will be negotiating our exit from the European Union and deciding which European Directives and Regulations we should keep, and which we should throw out. The Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, Europe’s nature directives, wildlife trade regulations, and many other pieces of European legislation, will no longer directly apply to the UK, and the consequences for our wildlife could be profound.

But Brexit also offers the UK an opportunity.

We like to pride ourselves as being a nation of animal lovers, and a country that leads the world on nature protection and environmental issues.

Now is the time for prospective parliamentary candidates from across the political spectrum to pledge their support for a Britain that not only accepts the need to maintain European safeguards for wildlife, but will set an example to the world by going above and beyond our current protections and put in place progressive policies aimed at halting and reversing wildlife declines and improving animal welfare.

To this end, my colleagues at Born Free and I have put together a set of election priorities for wildlife, which we are calling on all candidates and Parties to endorse. These include maintaining and improving on current EU regulations concerning nature and animal protection as we prepare to leave the EU; adopting a leading role in international efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking starting, with a UK ivory trade ban; improving protections for both native and captive wildlife against all forms of exploitation and abuse; and introducing nature education into the National Curriculum for all children.

It’s not for us as a charity to advocate or support any particular political party. But we are asking people who care about wild animals, captive or free-living, to demand that their prospective parliamentary candidates prioritise the protection of wildlife in their campaigns, and ensure these issues are given the highest priority if they are elected to Parliament.

Whatever the colour of the new Government on June 9th, we will continue to push for the highest level of protection for our wildlife, and the highest standards of welfare for all animals.

As Mahatma Ghandi rightly said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Never was this statement more relevant.

Blogging off

Will

Home in Africa

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

The week of May the 1st 2017 was an incredibly exciting week for Born Free as we helped give two needy wild animals a second chance of a life worth living.  I have asked my friend and colleague, Beth Brooks, to tell the story in the Guest Blog.

Enjoy!

Will

Ciam at Shamwari

“With his head held high, Ciam the lion stood in the middle of his vast enclosure, surrounded by the vivid greens and browns of the African bush. Proud, elegant and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of South Africa, Ciam was home.

Just moments before, Virginia McKenna had opened the gate of Ciam’s night quarters at Born Free’s Jean Byrd Centre at Shamwari, South Africa.

Ciam had spent the first seven months of his life as an ‘exotic pet’ in a cramped cage. This was followed by 18 months at Belgian wildlife sanctuary Natuurhulpcentrum (NHC), so no one knew how he would react to so much space. But he immediately began to explore his new home.

This incredible moment was the culmination of a 32-hour, 10,000km journey by road and air from Belgium to South Africa to rehome Ciam, and 17-year-old former zoo lion Nelson. I was honoured to be a member of the Born Free rehoming team which included colleagues from Shamwari and NHC.

That same morning, Nelson had been introduced to his new home at Born Free’s Julie Ward Animal Rescue and Education Centre. Nelson was rescued from a French zoo and had also been living at NHC, but wasn’t as keen to embrace change as Ciam. With a little encouragement, Nelson left his night quarters for a brief stroll around his new home, but headed back in soon afterwards. Over the next couple of days his visits to his main enclosure started getting longer, and we are confident he will soon be fully settled at Shamwari.

The different reactions of Ciam and Nelson to their new homes highlighted for me why Born Free’s Compassion Conservation philosophy is so important. Born Free has not just given two lions a new forever home – Born Free has given two individuals a new life. Two lions with completely different personalities who have had to endure hardship and deprivation. Gentle and playful Ciam took the long journey and the introduction to his new home in his stride. But the much older Nelson – having spent 17 years in a zoo – will certainly take longer to adjust. Every animal truly is different.

Ciam and Nelson can never be released fully back into the wild, but at Shamwari – and with the wonderful Born Free team there – they will receive the best care possible. Care that will hopefully erase memories of the suffering they have been forced to endure for the sake of human entertainment.

Together they highlight the plight of the millions of captive wild animals around the world – kept in zoos, circuses or as exotic pets. Individually, they show that every single animal deserves a life worth living.

It was quite an experience for them – and it was quite an experience for me. One I shall never forget.

Beth”

Press Officer Born Free Foundation

You can help us with future Big Cat Rescues with a donation

Rethinking Animals Summit 2017

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Dear FriendsNew York

I was recently asked to speak at an amazing event held in New York City, by the incredible Bonnie Wyper and the Thinking Animals United team, and supported by the Arcus Foundation.

The meeting covered an extraordinary range of issues including ‘The Threat to Human Health’; ‘The Threat to Global Security’; ‘The Threat to the World Economy’; ‘The Threat to Environmental Sustainability’; ‘Business for Sustainable Solutions’; ‘Biodesigning Our Future’; and ‘Tapping the Global Citizen’.

Speakers included Dr Paula Kahumbu (Wildlife Direct), Carter and Olivia Ries (One More Generation), Ayshar Akhtar, Crawford Allen (TRAFFIC), Philip Lymbery (Compassion in World farming), Mary Rice (Environmental Investigation Agency), Jeremy Coller (Coller Capital), Jane Lawton (The B-Team), Mike Korchinsky (Wildlife Works), Philip Ross (Mycoworks), Stephan Bognar, James Deutsch (Vulcan Philanthropy), and Annette Lanjouw (The Arcus Foundation).

I was honoured to join a panel moderated by the visionary Steven M Wise, President of the Non-Human Rights Project, to discuss ‘The Threat to Our Happiness’ together with the Reverend Fletcher harper and Beth Allgood from IFAW.

It was all totally fascinating and, I understand, the proceedings were filmed and will be made available in the future. In the meantime, if you are interested, you can download an extended version of my speech here.

Blogging off!

Will

PS Make yourself happy by reading about the lions Nelson and Ciam, and their journey home to Africa

Elephant Down!

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Born Free Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elsa’s Kopje Lodge to the rescue!

They say a picture tells a thousand words, so here is a short video of a dramatic and amazing incident that happened during my recent trip to Meru National Park in Northern Kenya.

Lodge Manager, George, had witnessed an elephant with a grapefruit-size injury which was weeping pus on the left-hand side of his belly, near the hind-leg.  George asked whether we could help and, of course, I said yes – but how to find one elephant in over 800 sq kms?

The following morning at 6 am we set off, criss-crossing the Park to try and look for the injured animal.  By 11.30 am, we had come up with nothing.  However, just as we got back to the Lodge to take a short break, George pointed to a solitary young male elephant visible through binoculars from the Lodge itself.  We rushed down to see whether he was our candidate.  He was, so together with Tim Oloo, Born Free’s Country Manager, we sat in our vehicle observing him while the KWS vet, Dr Rono, supported by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, was alerted and drove to the scene along with members of the Born Free Kenya team.  It was not easy.  After several hours, the elephant started to move off and ended up in a very rocky and inaccessible area where vehicles could not go.

Thinking that he may be following a watercourse, we drove around to the next track and within half an hour, lo and behold, ‘our elephant’ crossed the track and headed up to a flat and open area to the left.  Victor, our Born Free Project Manager, and Dr Rono followed, leaving us to wait for a radio signal to join them when it was appropriate.  The minutes seemed to drag.  There was no news.  Suddenly the radio sprang into life and Victor urgently called us in to help make sure that other elephants in the area did not come to the aid of their now prostrate companion.  We were with him in just ten minutes.

It turned out that the grapefruit-sized lump on his side was only the tip of a putrid iceberg.  Inside the body cavity, the wound was seemingly five or six times as large and with literally litres of putrid material and pus.  Dr Rono expertly flushed the system out making a small incision about six inches below the main wound so that it could drain properly.  Then the heavily-sedated elephant was given antibiotics and other medication before he administered the reversal injection.

We all retreated to the relative safety of our vehicles to see what would happen next.  Within 60 seconds the elephant was up, seemingly bemused and really cross!  He charged away up the hill before turning to the nearest innocent bush and giving it a thorough beating.  Then, with a further series of outraged trumpets, he disappeared into the distance, just as light was fading.

The film is here.  It is a story of compassion and, I hope, success.  I have asked the Born Free team on the ground to report back to confirm that the elephant is well and is making a good recovery.  Dr Rono suggested that he would take a further look and gave the elephant a 70% chance of survival.  I hope he is right.  But one thing is for sure, if KWS, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Elsa’s Kopje Lodge and Born Free Kenya had not stepped in, he would almost certainly be dead.

Blogging off.
Will

Westminster event postponed

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

The thoughts and sympathies of everyone at the Born Free Foundation are with all those affected by the terrorist attack at Westminster yesterday.

Born Free was due to hold an event – Beyond the Bars: The Welfare of Captive Wild Animals in the UK – at Portcullis House on the evening of the 22nd March. The Born Free team were in the process of travelling to the event when the tragedy unfolded, and are thankfully all safe and well.

Due to the horrific attack, our event was postponed. But it has not been cancelled. The issues the Beyond the Bars report sought to address – setting out a 15-point Priority Plan designed to improve and safeguard the future welfare of the millions of wild animals kept in captivity in the UK, in zoos, circuses – and as exotic pets – are crucial, and our message must be brought to the attention of MPs at Westminster as soon as possible. Our concerns for the welfare of captive wild animals – concerns shared by millions of British citizens – lie at the very heart of everything we do at Born Free, and we will continue to seek a better, more compassionate future for them.

Born Free will be in touch with all those due to attend Beyond the Bars as soon as possible with further news of the rescheduled event.

Like the rest of the UK, today is business as usual at Born Free. And we stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who refuse to be intimidated by terrorism and will not live our lives in fear. We stand for freedom.

Will Travers

Chimps in Danger – Time to Turn The Tide

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Dear Friends.

We’ve done pretty much everything to chimpanzees.

We’ve shot them into space, used them to sell tea, smuggled their babies as exotic ‘pets’, dressed them up as clowns in the circus, experimented on them for dubious medical research – even, in some parts of the world, eaten them.

And yet we have failed to do the one thing that really matters – we have failed to protect them and their natural forest home.

The BBC’s in-depth report on the cynical smuggling of live baby chimps from West Africa to markets in the Middle East and the Far East, broadcast this week, has shocked millions.

The look of helpless despair in the face of ‘Nemley Junior’, the infant chimp recovered in a sting operation, carried out with officers from the Cote d’Ivoire Police and Interpol, touched a million hearts.

And yet, while those concerned with the ravages of wildlife crime focus on elephants and rhino, the criminal syndicates intent on illegally trading our closest living relative remain largely ignored and untouched.

Conservation and law enforcement organisations such as LAGA (Last Great Ape) and the EAGLE network, together with campaigning individuals like world-famous photographer Karl Amman, have, for too long, been lone voices, trying to bring attention to a despicable trade that has probably caused the death of 4,000 chimpanzees in the last 10 years.

Even top Interpol officials such as David Higgins and the Secretary General of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), John Scanlon, lament the low level of attention and meagre funding that has been directed towards finding and bringing to justice those behind the trafficking.

Maybe the BBC’s investigation will start to change that? No one who saw the reports can fail to have been moved – and now it is time for action.

But what will it take?

Well money, for sure. Money to fund intelligence gathering, enforcement, judicial training, assisting prosecutors, and more. For too long, wildlife crime, including the live trade in great apes, has been regarded as a low risk/high reward activity. Laws need to be changed and judges motivated to exponentially increase the risk. Long custodial sentences, together with the sequestration of assets of crime – houses, cars, bank accounts – will make many criminals think again.

How much money I can’t say, but given that the illegal wildlife trade is worth up to $30billion a year, would a few million be too much to ask?

We also need to change attitudes, and that requires political will. While it remains acceptable for wealthy individuals in the Middle East to ‘own’ a status symbol ‘pet’ such as a chimp (or a cheetah), or while audiences in China still regard juvenile chimps (the adults are too dangerous), dressed up in costumes and performing ‘marriage ceremonies’ in circuses and zoos as amusing, then change will be glacially slow.

But we have seen how fast things can change when there is political will. The fact that China is now a leader in terms of addressing the bloody ivory trade (while the UK drags its feet) is clear evidence of that.

We also need to accept our own responsibility. Look for chimps on Instagram (other social media platforms are available) and you’ll finds dozens, hundreds of ‘selfies’ featuring endangered wildlife such as chimps, lion and tiger cubs, and more. People pay to have that ‘once in a lifetime’ photo and that’s also what drives the illegal trade. We all have a responsibility to pledge never to have our photo taken with an exotic ‘pet’. And if we see some activity involving wild animals when we are traveling, we can do something about it by reporting what we see to Born Free. We can all do something!

And if there is anyone out there with the financial resources to help profoundly turn the tide then please do contact me directly.

Otherwise, if you would like to join me in sponsoring the lifetime care of a rescued baby chimp, then please do consider helping care for Sara or Chinoise through Born Free.

David Shukman and the BBC, together with the dedicated wildlife officers of Cote D’Ivoire, have brought this disgusting trade to the attention of the world. Nemley Junior has been rescued from the hands of the traffickers. Maybe, just maybe, the tide has begun to turn.

Blogging off.

Will

Will Travers OBE
President,
Born Free Foundation

New Year Message

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow, 2017 will begin.

As with every New Year, there is a sense of expectation. That war will cease, the poverty will end, that our planet will be protected and that compassion will conquer all.

It may not turn out like that but that is no excuse for not trying – we must strive as never before.

And we must not forget our fellow travellers, the animals who share our spinning orb and whose survival is in our hands.

Born Free will continue to do all it can for wildlife in the wild but, in 2017, we shall also return to our roots and focus our efforts with even greater intensity on the millions of wild animals detained for our ‘pleasure’ and our ‘entertainment’.

My mother wrote the following words in 1987, thirty years ago. They remain as true today as they did then and they keep the fire of indignation and outrage burning as strong as ever. Wild animals locked up for life in zoos, circuses and menageries for little better reason than that it provides a momentary distraction cannot go unchallenged and, with the help of our supporters around the world, Born Free will always be clear, strong and principled in our opposition to the exploitation of individual wild animals ‘for fun’.

Here’s what Virginia wrote all those years ago:

“Sometimes the anger I feel towards those establishments, and the people who condone the perpetuation of the kind of captivity I am fighting against, chokes me. Sometimes when things get rough I feel frustrated and hopeless; the proverbial brick wall seems thicker than ever, and my voice, a very small one, shouting against the wind. But then, in my mind, I see the animals in the zoos. The bear in an indoor cage, four metres by three; the solitary monkey chained within its concrete pen; birds so confined that flight is impossible; the jungle cat crouching in the doorway of its wooden box inside its tiny concrete cage. I see the look in their eyes. It is a look I cannot forget, which I will not betray and which will follow me for the rest of my days”Virginia McKenna writing in ‘Beyond The Bars’(page 39) ‘Past , Present – Future Indicative’, 1987, Thorsons Publishing Group.

Still so true.

So, may I wish you all a wonderful New Year and ask that, in the months ahead, you keep those fellow travellers in mind. I know you will.

Very best wishes

Blogging off

Will

Please support our New Year appeal – Beyond the Bars